Tag Archives: Mary Beth

Dad’s passage

Dad died yesterday morning. He hadn’t eaten nor taken water for several days so it was not unexpected. At some level, we are all relieved. The phrase I used on FaceBook was ‘His torment is over.’

‘Torment’ might be a bit overstated. He never complained of pain, although in truth his ability to communicate was pretty much entirely gone. He would sometimes react to our attempts to move him by making a grunt of pain. Towards the end of last week he was not sleeping well and twitching a lot.

‘Torment’ could also be applied to Mom’s experience. It was bad enough to be losing her husband of nearly 66 years but her home was being invaded by not only her children but her children’s spouses, hospice nurses and technicians and other helpers and visitors. She will have to endure that for a while longer – ten of us were there yesterday – but hopefully she will be able to sleep better. We’re back to the dilemma we had with Dad: how do we respect their independence yet give them help when needed? This is especially difficult when they say they don’t want the help.

So, we muddle through as always. We do it for love, which helps.

Mom called me at about 5 with the news. The phone ringing woke me from a deep sleep and my original reaction was irritation. I had been getting a lot of sales calls lately so that was my first thought. When I saw ‘Mom’ on the phone, though, I knew what it was about.

We got down to Santa Clara about 7. Tom and Mary Lou had been staying over so they had been with Mom. The hospice nurse had come over right away and done some minimal clean up. He was lying in the bed as he had been but he was still. His mouth had a slight smile, we all thought.

Teresa and Jane got there a little later. Teresa wanted to clean him more thoroughly so she did that. Mom and Dad had made arrangements long ago with Trident for cremation and they were coming at ten so we all took some time before that for reflection and community.

The Trident people were respectful but professional. They were in and out of the house in less than ten minutes. We were left with memories only.

So the rest of the day was about memories. Mary got there about 1. Julian and Lisa came. Sarah came. We all sat around and ate and reminisced. We talked about funeral arrangements and other quotidian things. There were some tears but a lot of laughter.

Dad

The other news this new year is about Dad. The week before Thanksgiving he was out with Mom and tried to get out of the car on his own and fell. Mom had gone into the store with the understanding – her understanding – that Dad would wait for her.

It was a perfect example of how we are all living in the past to some extent with Dad. He thought – as near as we could later find out – that he was to go in as well. He got out of the car and promptly fell. A passer by saw him and called 911. His injuries were not severe but in the course of examination at the ER, a chest X-ray was taken revealing a golf ball sized ‘mass’ in his lung.

Normally a biopsy would be conducted to verify what this ‘mass’ was but neither Dad nor any other member of the family was in favor of it. It would be very stressful and the likelihood was that it would in fact be cancerous. That begged the question of what would be the next step. Surgery, radiation, or chemo? No, the consensus was to let it go.

At the same time, the doctors said there were some ‘abnormalities’ in his blood work. My own view of the progression of information was a bit skewed as I was busy working during those first days but about a week later I asked Mom what she had been told.

Leukemia.

The doctors recommended we begin hospice care. It took a while for me to figure out what this exactly means. Evidently, this implies that life expectancy is 6 months. Kaiser brought a hospital bed and some medicines and supplies to the house but the extra care Mom needed was not part of the deal. She had to call providers and set up a schedule.

Of course all of the children were involved in all of this. My own help was minimal but all of my siblings made major contributions to the changes. Teresa, Mary and Tim are in the medical field in various ways and were able to understand what the doctors were saying. We all came to the house and filled in the cracks of care.

Mom has gone from having help 4 hours a day 3 days a week to 12 hours a day 5 days a week. Only a small part of the cost is covered by insurance. To save money, we sibs have promised to cover the weekends.

Dad’s only indication that he is in pain is when he is being moved out of the bed. He doesn’t say anything but we notice the strain in his face. As far as I know the only medication he is taking is a stool softener. He still uses the walker to get down the hall to the living room. He likes to watch football on TV. He eats meals in the dining room. He listens to the conversation around him and occasionally tries to say something but he cannot construct sentences any more.

Mom had his favorite priest come and say Mass for him. He also got the Sacrament of the Sick. I believe this is the same as what we used to call Extreme Unction, or Last Rites. Mary actually got him out to Church on Christmas Eve which he enjoyed.

As for the future, death awaits us all. Dad is likely closer than the rest of us. We are doing our best to make his remaining days as comfortable as possible.

sick

Sick. I’ve been sick. I’m pretty sure it’s just a head cold, but it has kept me low for almost a whole week now. Sunday I wrote in a post that I had a headache. That’s not uncommon but Monday it came back and it wouldn’t go away throughout a nice Christmas Day at Mom and Dad’s. Sarah had been at Jane’s Sunday night decorating cookies so I went over and did some. Here are our results:

Sarah came and stayed at my place Sunday night. Monday it was the two of us plus Rose in my car going down to Santa Clara. Jane and Joe and Jack came down. Mary was already there since Saturday. Teresa was there until about 2 when she had to go to work. Julian and Lisa came down but they were sick and didn’t stay long.

My headache never went away, despite some rather frenzied applications of medicine: ibuprofen, excedrin. maxalt – nothing worked. The next day I was torched. I stayed in bed pretty much all day and night. The headaches were under control but I was extremely tired. I did check my temperature but there was no fever. Wednesday I was going to go back down to Santa Clara and stay overnight but I knew I couldn’t do that nor did I want to expose Mom and Dad. Jane called me and said she would drive me down just for a couple of hours. It was Dad’s birthday. Jane got him to agree to walk over to the new visitor center at ‘Apple Park’. That was nice. the weather was perfect.Cool but sunny.

Yesterday I felt better and got out to do some grocery shopping. In the afternoon, I went to take a nap but actually felt pretty good so I got up. I still went to bed about 7 as I had every other night starting Tuesday. By now the fatigue wasn’t so bad but the constant stuffiness in my head along with the coughing and runny nose. I take Afrin at night so I can breathe but try really hard not to take any decongestant during the daylight hours. Sometimes I think the Afrin works a little too well, creating a direct path for the cold air to blast through my sinuses to the back of my throat, where there is a tender spot from the post nasal drip.

Well, today I went to work and did ok. Luckily just an 8 hour day and no one was in the building but Tim W and me. Tim put up with my sniffles. I didn’t get too close. Now it’s almost 8 and I’m heading to bed.

One last thing. Mary got this picture of Dad on Christmas Day as he was taking all the torn up wrapping paper out to recycling. He’s still got his sense of humor!

end of the trip

The trip was great but by the time we got home from the Sistergold concert and Heidelberg, we were toasted. We mostly laid low at Wilfried and Elisabeth’s house for a day and a half. Mary was interested in the casinos in Baden Baden but when we looked into the details it turned out they had a dress code and a high buy in and the games didn’t start until late in the day – or evening in one case.

No one else was as interested as Mary so that didn’t happen. We were getting ready to go over there Monday and at least walk around a bit but Wilfried and Elisabeth had an unexpected visitor, an elderly man with a shock of white hair. Naturally, beers were brought out and we Americans were amused at his torrent of conversation. I don’t remember what all he was talking about, but he was sure passionate. Wilfried explained later that he’s some kind of artist and collector.

Mercedes has a factory in Rastatt, so after our visitor left we went to take a tour there, then Wilfried took us around the Zentrum. Of course, there’s a schloss.We ate ice cream. Later, we walked over to Schloss Favorite, which is literally 5 minutes from Wilfried’s front door. This place has lovely grounds to go along with the structure.

 

Tuesday we had to leave at noon, but in the morning we went out for a walk through the neighborhood. The open field at the back of Wilfried and Elisabeth’s house has been set up for development: streets and utilities but no houses yet. In a half an hour leisurely walking, we walked around the whole village. The village is called Förch and one of several small villages tied administratively into the larger town of Rastatt.Perhaps I should mention that Elisabeth was unable to accompany us on most of our touring around because she had an operation on her foot and could not walk. She always had something good for us when we came back to her house. Danke schön, Elisabeth!

At noon, we loaded our bags into Wilfried’s car, hugged Elisabeth and headed north. Deutsche Bahn had a major problem in Rastatt where the ground below some train tracks sank on Sunday, stranding thousands of people. Wilfried wasn’t sure how possible it would be for us to get a train to Frankfurt from Rastatt so he drove us to the Karlsruhe Hbf.

There finally we had to say auf wiedersehen to our tour guide, cousin and friend Wilfried. Words can not express my gratitude for everything you did for Mary and me this past two weeks. His only request: that we come back and stay longer! Mit viel Vergnügen!

Heidelberg

On our way back to Rastatt on Sunday, we stopped at Heidelberg. It was another place I had been to in 1982 and also in 1976 with the Blue Saints.

The AltStadt along the Neckar River with the huge castle dominating above is a natural for tourists, and we did all the usual things. We parked, walked along the river to the Alte Brücke . . .

. . . and thence into the Old Town.

From there it was up more stairs – Mary never let us forget how many steps there were at the Cologne Cathedral: 533! – to the Schloss. We walked around the lovely gardens and toured the interior.

The interior featured a German Pharmacy museum and the world’s largest wine cask. After descending we had lunch at Vetter im Schoneck. Established 1987. Really. I checked the coaster twice. Vetter’s is the home of the world’s strongest beer: 33% alcohol! Actually, Wilfried told us that figure is from an intermediate stage. The finished brew is 10.5%, strong enough for me to take a miss. We had Bavarian meatloaf which was more like Spam than not.

On our way home, we passed the entrance to the tunnel Deutsche Bahn is building for the IC trains under Rastatt. More on that in my next post.

Sistergold

Very high on Mary’s list of things she wanted to do was to see the German saxophone group Sistergold. Wilfried had helped her to contact them and got tickets for thier concert in a little town called Homberg.

Homberg is about a three hour drive north of Baden Baden, where we were at about 3:30 Saturday afternoon. Wilfried had taken us to a tour of the Baden Baden Festspielhaus (Opera House). It was supposed to be only 75 minutes but it had dragged on and at the end there was a little scene with a man who had had to go to the rest room and lost track of the rest of the group. He was pissed that he’d gotten left and was having it out with the tour guide. The rest of us were left standing around in the lobby. Wilfried took action and started trying doors to get us out. This succeeded and we were off.

We were originally hoping to get to Homberg in time for dinner but that was going a-glimmering. Luckily, Wilfried had had the foresight to bring some rolls and sausages which we ate at a rest stop. In the end, we got to Homberg in time to get settled in our hotel and arrive at the Stadthalle by around 7:30. Dinner would have to wait.

We had a glass of wine while the audience filled in. The Stadthalle was small, like a jr high school MP room. There was a stage. We were seated on plastic chairs around tables with little decorations. Pretty small time, but everyone was nice. Beer and wine and snacks were for sale. Maybe 100 in attendance.

Here’s a view out back of the Stadthalle. The Ohm River is actually beneath the line of trees in the foreground.

Sistergold is 4 women playing soprano, alto, tenor and baritone saxophones. They started the concert by walking in from the back of the hall. They played jazz, funk, classical, and pop styles with little dance moves and good audience engagement. They were great! They did three encores and didn’t stop until a quarter to 11 (8 o’clock start).

Afterwards, they came out to talk and sign autographs (and sell CDs) and Mary jumped in. Three of the four spoke English pretty well. They chatted with us for a good half an hour. Towards the end, the people who ran the building were trying to close up. We took a picture and reluctantly said good night.

Then it was, what are we going to do for dinner? It was nearly 11:30. Wilfried asked some locals what was likely to be open for dinner that late in town and was met by blank looks. Hmmm.

We cruised the town. There was something like a night club open but no food. We stopped at a gas station. The attendant there was closing but suggested fast food at the autobahn about 5 miles away. Failing that (we all said no), perhaps Marburg. Thirty minutes away.

Wilfried set out following his GPS (I guess, I was in the back seat, resigned to my fate). Along country roads and through villages in the darkness we went. Suddenly there was a blast of light. An American ’50’s style diner in the middle of the German countryside! What? About 50 neon signs and the front end of a ’57 Buick with its headlights on adorned the front. Best of all, the kitchen was still open!

We had burgers and fries. I had a Corona (with lime). It was great! We got back to the hotel at 1:30. Wilfried’s key didn’t work and he had to break the door open. No one with the hotel was awake.

Mary is going to try to figure out how to bring Sistergold to the US. They are willing but won’t do it for free so she has some fundraising to do.

showing pictures

Mary Beth and I had our first picture showing yesterday. It didn’t go as well as I’d hoped but it was still good for Mom & Dad and Rose to see all of our pictures and hear our stories.

I forgot to bring my packet of souvenirs including my journal even though it was sitting right by my front door. Mary and Jim flew down but took a relaxed approach in the morning so they didn’t arrive at Palo Alto until about noon. Mom had the lunch spread ready to go when we got there so we all dug in and had some good visiting. No one was in a hurry.

I think it was around 2 that we all got up and got serious about showing our pictures. I had loaded mine onto my laptop because it had an HDMI output that I knew I could plug into Mom and Dad’s big TV. Mary had hers on her iPad and also on Google Drive.

The first problem was that the computer wouldn’t talk to the TV. I was using an HDMI cable that I had that I was sure I had used before. I fiddled around with all kinds of settings but nothing worked. Mary wondered if the USB  on the TV would take a connection to her iPad. No, that was no good. The input selector didn’t even have USB. What’s the USB for???

Then I saw another HDMI cable under the TV. That worked! Yay!

Then I had the issue of figuring out what program to use to show the images. The laptop was running Windows 10 but it’s setup to be my work machine so I hadn’t used it to show pictures before. I thought I could just go to the file manager and select the folder and start the slideshow. Not so fast, pardner! I finally got a program going that showed the images from each folder only. I had to exit the program ( I don’t remember what it was called) each time I finished a folder – and I have many – then reselect a new folder and start again. Tedious.

Of course I showed every picture I took, including pictures of flowers and multiple images of essentially the same thing at different exposures. I think everyone nodded off at one point or another.

Finally it was time for Mary to show her pictures. The TV was working well so she logged onto Google Drive on my computer and started showing her pictures. But the videos didn’t work. There was a message about restarting ‘your device’ to make them work. Never mind, now we’re getting short of time.

Mary and Jim had to time their activities so that they could be back on the ground in Auburn while there was still daylight. When the issue came up, Mary was about halfway through her pictures and it was 5:30 already. They needed to leave by 6. Oh, too bad about dinner! Then some of my images that were on Google Drive started showing up along with Mary’s. What?? She soldiered on and we got through at 6 exactly. Rose and I had picked them up on our way down but we wanted dinner so I ran Mary and Jim up to PAO and came back. 40 minutes round trip.

The four of us had a nice dinner on the patio and we left a little after 8 but the whole day had seemed way more rushed than I liked. Teresa is going to want to see everything as will Jane so we’ll likely have a chance to do it again. On our drive to the airport, I suggested to Mary that we consolidate our better pictures on Google Drive in a special folder for showing. I don’t know what we can do about the videos. There’s work to do.

I left the original HDMI cable in the trash.

Friedrichshafen

Friedrichshafen is a city on the Bodensee, which English speakers call Lake Constance. Bodensee forms part of the border between Germany and Switzerland. I’ve always found it interesting how place names can change so much from one language to another. Paris is always Paris, but in France, London is Londrés.

Anyway, Bodensee sounds cooler to me so that’s what I’ll use.

Our original plans for sightseeing in the Munich (München) neighborhood included going to see Mad Ludwig’s castle at Neuschwanstein. At Marlies’ house, Mary Sullivan told us the story of her and Tom’s visit there the week before. It was a nightmare of trains, buses & walking that took up more than 12 hours. The tour of the interior of the castle was an hour. She didn’t think it was really worth it with so many other things to see.

While we were mulling that information, Marlies told us of a flight she took over the Bodensee in a Zeppelin and how awesome that was. It was expensive but seemed much more interesting to me. I had been harboring hopes of going back to Bodensee anyway. Mary Beth said she’s seen the world from 1000 feet but I said not Bodensee and the Alps.

So she signed on. We made the reservation for Thursday afternoon.

Wednesday afternoon as we were walking to the hotel in Muncih, Mary’s phone rang. It was the Zeppelin people. Thursday’s flight was cancelled due to bad weather. Would we like to reschedule for Friday morning? Yes!

OK, that’s fine. We can go to the Zeppelin Museum in the afternoon, take the flight in the morning, and get the train to Baden Baden in the afternoon. We’ll be at Wilfried’s before dinner time.

When we arrived in Friedrichshafen at about noon on Thursday, we could see why the flight had been cancelled. There was a heavy drizzle and the clouds were so low we could barely see the water of the lake from a block away. The Alps on the other side? Forget it! And the Zeppelin people called again. The Friday morning flight was cancelled. We were sad but not surprised. You wouldn’t have been able to see anything.

At the hotel, we got a map of the town and I noticed another air-related museum. Claude Dornier was a German aircraft designer of the middle 20th Century based near Friedrichshafen. His museum was near the airport, a short train ride away. We decided to go there first and go to the Zeppelin Museum the next morning. Actually, we looked in on the Zeppelin Museum after lunch. It’s right on the water in the Old Town area of Friedrichshafen. It was mobbed. It made sense. The weather was bad and everyone wanted to be inside. We took the train to the other museum.

For dinner, we went back to the promenade along the lake and found a restaurant with 2nd floor tables overlooking the lake. The clouds had lifted somewhat and we could see the setting sun shining through the gaps lighting up the Alps. Sehr schön, as they say in Germany.

Sadly, I had left my camera in the hotel room. Mary got some pictures but I don’t have copies yet. Stay tuned!

In the morning we went to the much-less-crowded Zeppelin Museum. Zeppelin, of course, was the airship builder of the early 20th Century. We call them blimps but the craft Zeppelin built were much more than that. Zeppelins had regularly scheduled routes from Germany to the US, to South America and all over Europe in the 1920’s.

The best known example of a Zeppelin is the Hindenburg. The largest such craft ever built, it caught fire and burned in 1937 as it was docking in New Jersey. At the museum, they have a full sized replica of part of the Hindenburg. They also had a smaller display of the Hindenburg in comparison to other famous large aircraft. The Hindenburg dwarfed them all.

Sorry no photo of the smaller scale models. Maybe Mary has one . . .

When we got out of the museum about 11:30, practically the first thing we saw was the new, tourist, Zeppelin flying over Friedrichshafen. I guess the clouds lifted enough. Here’s Mary watching it fly away.

Oh well, maybe next time!

Perhaps I should have known. My other visit to Bodensee was in January 1982. We stayed in Lindau, just a little east of Friedrichshafen, which has a famously beautiful harbor. Visibility was poor that time too.

Munich

Wednesday we bid farewell to the Mosel River valley. Wilfried took us through the new tunnel under Burg Landshut and out into the Hunsrück en route to Mannheim and a train to Munich.

I sat in the back seat with Mary driving and Wilfried narrating history and tried to keep track of the towns and highways we went on. Morbach, Birkenfeld, and onto the autobahn east through Kaiserslautern. There was some confusion as to whether we should head for Karlsruhe or Mannheim. Mannheim won as the train there was a little later even though it was out of Wilfried’s way somewhat.

We noted the presence of the large US hospital at Landstuhl as well as the Ramstein air base. Somewhere around Neuleiningen the hills and forest of the Hunsrück opened up to the wide Rhine River valley.

At the Mannheim Hbf, we said our goodbyes and heartfelt thanks to Wilfried and committed ourselves to the German train system. The first train we didn’t do so well: all the seats were taken and we didn’t feel like hauling our large bags through the whole train to find a seat. We only had to get to Stuttgart, about 40 minutes, before we had a transfer, so we stood in the doorway at the end of the car.

After that it was much better. We had seats and I amused myself timing the kilometer posts and calculating our speed. 27 seconds per kilometer equals about 150 kph or about 95 mph. Pretty fast and very smooth.

In Munich, we got situated in our hotel then headed out to find the Marianplatz and the animated glockenspiel. It was due to ring at 5 pm and we had about 45 minutes. As it turned out, we needed every bit of that as I misread the map and took us down a street at right angles to the Platz. We saw the dancing figures, along with about 1000 other tourists, pretty much all of whom had their cell phones held out over their heads recording the event. People actually started leaving before it was over.

 

We didn’t, but felt the need for sustenance. We hadn’t really gotten lunch with all our train changing. On the other hand, Andreas had texted us inviting us for dinner at 6:30. Solution: ice cream!

Thus buoyed, we walked to our dinner rendezvous. We later figured it was just under 3 km from Marienplatz to the restaurant. Our hotel was about halfway in between so our days’ walking ended up being 6 or 7 km by the time we were done.

Andreas had told us Julia was under the weather, so when I first saw her, in her stroller with a pacifier in her mouth and a hood over her head, I thought this might be a bad idea. A few tickle overtures, however, opened the gates and before long she was walking along the street holding my hand.

At the restaurant, the food was slow in coming and Julia began exploring. There was no one seated near us, so she pulled silverware off adjacent tables, and messed with the decorations in the window alcoves.

I tried a distraction. I asked her if she wanted to come outside with me. She did! We went outside and walked down the street a ways. I pointed out things in my simple German: Bicycle! Motorcycle! At the corner drugstore (luckily closed) I lifted her up onto the window sill and helped her jump down to the sidewalk. Now her eyes were sparkling!

After dinner, Luisa had to leave as she was taking a 5 am train to Austria the next morning. The rest of us stopped down the street at a gelato place. Then it was time for all of us to say goodbye. Mary and I walked back to the hotel. We were in bed by 10.

Just for fun, here’s my photo of Marienplatz from my visit in January 1982:

Leni

Leni Herges was born in Cologne, Germany on August 4, 1917. According to my copy of Family Tree Maker, she is the wife of my 2nd cousin once removed. FTM says Wilfried, her son, is my 3rd cousin. Wilfried’s great-grandfather and my great grandfather were brothers. I guess you could just as easily say that our great-great grandfather was the same person

It’s very confusing so I call everyone there my cousins. Mary Beth and I went to Germany to celebrate Leni’s 100th birthday. When I got to her house, and in her presence, I was tongue-tied. What do you say to a 100 year old person when you can speak their language? I have a little German but it deserts me when the pressure is on.

Leni was like a Sphinx. She didn’t say much to anyone. Her daughter Marlies (also my 3rd cousin!) keeps an eagle eye on her and whisked her away to her room if she showed any signs of being tired.

Now it’s funny: I have a picture in my mind’s eye of her sitting at the table with her eyes closed or otherwise disinterested, but in all the pictures I can find of her from this trip she looks pretty lively. Here’s a nice picture of a group of us:

There is one picture from the dinner that’s along the lines of what I’m talking about. As you might imagine, Leni gets tired as the day goes on. Mary and I had gotten to her house in the afternoon and there were a bunch of people there, all talking and drinking wine. Then, to get to the dinner, Marlies had hired a limo to take the immediate family. That was a scene getting everyone in.

At the other end, everyone is getting out and of course, we have to get a picture.

Then, inside to the dining room. More wine, appetizers, singing of songs (evidently the German version of Happy Birthday, which I never found out what it’s called) and finally, a speech. Wolfgang happens to be the Burgermeister of Berkastel-Kues and a relation of Leni through her father’s family. He went on for several minutes (in German, of course). It was very respectful and at times funny, but Wilfried captured this while Wolfgang was speaking.

Checked out.

The next morning some of us gathered again at Marlies’ before heading our separate ways. I happened to be looking at Leni when Julia came in. Julia is Leni’s great-granddaughter and 2-1/2 years old. Leni lit up when she saw her and gave her a big hug.

Hertzliche Gebürtstag, Leni, and many happy returns!